The worst of times: William Roache talks to Danny Danziger

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
The trouble with a child dying is that you're responsible, and it doesn't matter whether it's your fault or not. Children look to Mummy and Daddy, and Mummy and Daddy aren't supposed to let them down. So to have a child die on you, you really feel you've let them down, and on top of your grief is guilt.

Edwina was 18 months old when she died. She was stronger and sturdier than Verity, who is very delicate - and this is what made it so surprising, because she was robust; full of energy and very physical.

She had a temperature. We got the doctor round - no emergency, it was just an ordinary cold. And then she got this nasty cough. The doctor was brought in again, and he put her on to some antibiotics. When I came home I went up to see her in her cot; she seemed to be getting cooler, and the temperature had gone.

My wife and I went out for a meal, and my in-laws slept in downstairs, which they do regularly. When we came back from dinner, Sara popped upstairs. Edwina was fine. Then Sara went up again 20 minutes later - for some reason, she doesn't know why she went up again so quickly . . . something just drew her up.

And then Sara screamed my name. It was Edwina. I rushed upstairs, tried the kiss of life, slapped her on the back, held her upside-down, everything I could think of, but she was lifeless. I couldn't believe it.

The ambulance came and they rushed her to hospital. Sara went with them and I followed in the car. I was in a terrible state. I remember that awful drive to the hospital, hitting the wheel, saying over and over to myself: 'Don't let this be. Let it be me, if you want.' But she was dead.

Some time later the doctor told us: 'There was nothing you could do, it was acute pulmonary infection.' It seems her little tubes had become blocked with catarrh.

I remember at the hospital they laid Edwina out and put some flowers in her hand, and took a photograph. All this is wonderfully meant, but it was too much to bear at the time. We still have that photograph, but I don't look at it; I couldn't really bear to look at it.

We went home, absolutely shattered, bewildered, confused. Fortunately, I'd just started three weeks' holiday, and from then on, I couldn't talk to anyone but Sara.

I tried to pull myself together to ring my mother, but as soon as I tried to talk I burst into tears. I didn't want to go out, I didn't want to see anybody. We just talked and talked, myself and Sara.

We talked for four days and the funeral was getting near, and I honestly didn't think I could get through it.

But on the morning of the funeral I woke up - and I know I was awake, it wasn't a dream - and I had a vision in which I saw this halo of shining gold, with Edwina's face absolutely clear in the middle, smiling down.

And I felt a release as this great glow of light poured into me. At the same time there was this sense of peace and tranquillity. And the grief went, not totally, because there's still an element, but from then on I was able to cope.

It enabled me to get on with the funeral, and put her death into perspective, and try to make the fact that she'd been with us for 18 months a positive thing.

From then on we began to come up and out - never forgetting Edwina, but getting on with life.

Three weeks later I had to go back to work. That wasn't easy. The hardest thing was seeing people coming towards you, knowing that they knew and they didn't know what to do. Sometimes they'd avoid you because of their own embarrassment. It was best when people just touched your arm, simply that, no more.

Very soon there was this decision: do we have another child? You can't replace a child, but once we'd got Edwina in a separate compartment, we decided we would have another, for Verity, as much as us, who missed

Edwina.

William is very like Edwina in that he's into everything; very inquisitive, very curious, very active. He's a lovely boy, but he's always in trouble, so there was no question of sitting back and moping. Besides, we had Verity to think of. Having a family very effectively pulls you out of yourself.

Sara's parents were totally shaken and it made my father-in-law ill for quite a while. They'd actually lost a child themselves. Sara had had a sister who died fairly young, so it was like the second time around for them.

William Roache plays Ken Barlow in 'Coronation Street'. His autobiography, 'Ken And Me', is published by Simon & Schuster.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments